Bloody Rose shows how to Rock & Roll some Dungeons & Dragons

Bloody Rose coverI recently read Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames, a brilliant fantasy book about a band of misfits who travel around the land killing monsters. It’s exciting and it’s funny (I laughed for whole minutes at one point that I can’t tell you about without spoiling it), and the characters are badass and flawed and relatable. I’d recommend it to anyone with an interest in modern high fantasy literature. For reasons I’ll explain in this blog post, I’m also convinced that it should be added to the next version of D&D’s recommended reading (the 5th edition Appendix E version of which I have previously reviewed on this blog).

Now, I’m pretty sure that Bloody Rose is neither an official Dungeons & Dragons tie-in novel nor set in a D&D campaign world, but it clearly draws on D&D for inspiration. It’s got the standard ingredients: the aforementioned groups of monster slayers; non-human sentient races; magic weapons; a vaguely medieval setting with a map; a stark divide between human civilisation and monstrous wildlands; cataclysmic threats; heroics; bards to sing the tales. It’s even got some monsters straight out of the Monster Manual, including D&D-originals like owlbears, mariliths, and hyena-faced gnolls.

But the thing I’m most fascinated by in Bloody Rose is the spin that it puts on the heroic fantasy genre: what if adventuring parties were like rock & roll bands? It must have been done before, right? Does anyone know where and how? Regardless, I’ve never seen it before, so this is the story that made me wonder how to incorporate that idea back into D&D.

If you want to play a D&D campaign in which the adventuring parties were rock & roll bands, how would that work?

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Twitter and my toboggan ride down Mt Stupid

Graph of the Dunner-Kruger effect, from Wisdom of the Hands

I haven’t written anything on this blog recently. Mostly I blame Twitter, but perhaps not for the reason you’d think. Twitter is a much bigger pond that the circles I used to frequent on Google Plus. It has an active but disparate RPG scene. Being exposed to it has been eye-opening. So many clever people talking about RPGs and RPG theory in such depth and with such nuance. It has also been slightly demoralising.

(Sorry, this blog post could get a bit rambly.)

To use a metaphor about the Dunning–Kruger effect (a metaphor I also learned on Twitter), since running this blog I have been high up the slopes of Mount Stupid. Now I feel like I have just tobogganned down it and crashed into the Valley of Despair.

In short, I have finally learned enough about roleplaying games to know that I know nothing.

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Kobolds are a bit like Geese: A eulogy for Google+

In the last hour as I write this, Google+ finally shut down. It sucks, because Google+ was the best place I found online for roleplaying community discussions, and it suited me and my needs perfectly. Since the announcement that it was going, I’ve branched out to a few other social media sites. I’m now on Twitter (@Supermorff, follow me if you like) and reddit (u/stepintorpgs) and Discord (it confuses me so much) and a bunch of different forums. They’re fine but none are filling the hole just yet. Early days. (I understand some people have gone to places like MeWe, but I kinda don’t want to go somewhere that recruited social media-displaced roleplaying nerds with the same tactics they used to recruit social media-displaced white supremacists.)

Anyway, as a farewell, here’s a little thing that I posted on Google+ last year that I like enough to save. Enjoy.

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Dwelfs and Dragoblins: More mixed race options for D&D 5e

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Male dwelf concept art by dmantz, via reddit

One year ago, I posted a way of creating player characters in Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition that have the traits of two different playable races. That blog post was Bring on the dwelfs: Mixed race options in Dungeons & Dragons 5e, and it has become my most-viewed post on this site.

However, after posting I realised I wasn’t entirely happy with it, and felt it could be expanded and improved. So, finally, here is the expanded and improved guide for creating mixed race or hybrid characters in Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition:

Creating Hybrid Races in D&D 5e by Stephen Morffew (v3) [updated to v3 on 10 May 2019]

(Alternatively, if you don’t want to download the file, you can browse the components at the end of this blog post.)

Whereas the previous guide included only 10 different official races (and some of their subraces), this new guide includes 71 different official races and sub-races, which can now be freely mixed and matched to create new racial options. You can still make your half-Elf/half-Dwarf Dwelf, but maybe you want to make a half-Dragonborn/half-Goblin, or a half-Shifter/half-Tabaxi, or one of over a thousand other possibilities. Now you can! Enjoy!

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Get Inspired: Reading from D&D Appendix E

Appendix E from D&D 5e PHBIn the back of the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition Player’s Handbook, there is a list of inspirational reading called Appendix E. It’s a list of books (much as you might find in other RPGs) that influenced the creation of D&D or might help inspire players or DMs, and even some that were themselves inspired by D&D. It’s an expansion of an older list, Appendix N, that was compiled by Gary Gygax for the original Dungeon Master’s Guide in 1979. That list is specifically things that influenced Gary, and runs the gamut from fantasy through science fiction to horror; the additions for Appendix E tend to be more strictly fantasy, in line with what D&D has now become. (Other people have already talked about the evolution from Appendix N into Appendix E, so if you like you can look here, here or here, but in general I’d say that I’d have preferred if they’d been more willing to cut things out that no longer seemed appropriate.)

For a while, I’ve been reading books from the list when I’ve had the time, and now, in the last couple of months, I made an earnest attempt to read all the books that I hadn’t yet got around to. And since I have this roleplaying blog already, I might as well put down a little review for each thing I read.

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Quick Cortex Prime hack: Spies and monster hunters in Cold City

Cold City coverMy gaming group just wrapped up a Cold City campaign. It was fun, and we liked the setting, but afterwards the other players and I were unanimous in our dislike of the game’s system. There were some good bits, but too many bad bits getting in the way. For example, stats increase when you succeed and decrease when you fail, and if they decrease too far (which can happen on the turn of a single roll, especially if you were a min-maxer like me) that leads to a downward spiral and then it’s almost impossible for your character to become competent again.

Another player suggested that you could play a campaign with the same setting in another game like The Dystopian Universe Roleplaying Game (a Fate game). He was probably right, but I’ve never played that game, so I’m going to hack Cold City for Cortex Prime instead. Enjoy!

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Dream Questing as open table play: it’s been done, right?

I’m going to pitch a campaign idea, and I want people to tell me 1) whether they’ve ever done anything like this before, and 2) how it went. Ok? Here goes:

Heroes adventure through a fantasy world (the usual: fighting evil, slaying monsters, rescuing imprisoned royalty, saving the common folk, overthrowing tyrants, wielding powerful weapons and magic, exploring the wondrous lands around them, making a name for themselves, etc.). But they aren’t firmly tethered to this fantasy world, because in fact they are from the mundane world, without monsters or magic or heroes or wonder. In their home world they are normal people, unimportant, but sometimes when they sleep they appear in the fantasy world and become heroes. And when they wake, they vanish from that fantasy world until their next visit.

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